Heretic For President!

“I’ll tell you my strategy, the power that emerges from fierce authentic truth articulated among us!”

Marianne Williamson is one among many in the Democratic field of presidential candidates. She is a popular writer and motivational speaker, a liberation theologian and spiritual teacher. She was raised Jewish, but as an adult she embraced A Course In Miracles (ACIM).* She was the leader and senior minister of the Renaissance Unity Church (formerly known as the Church of Today). Under her leadership, it grew to be the second largest Unity church in the country. She sought to make the church independent of the Association of Unity Churches, but it didn’t work out and so she left that position; she would later return to the same church as a guest minister.

She is already a fairly well known name — not as much for politics, although she previously ran as a congressional candidate. Consistently left (and often quite far left) on every major issue, she has been speaking out about social, economic, and political issues for decades, including her 1997 book The Healing of America, but public health has been a particular focus. For example, she started two organizations to support HIV and AIDS patients during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s; and also that same decade she formed a nonprofit that continues to this day in bringing meals to the seriously ill. She has founded other kinds of organizations as well, such as one teaching peace-making skills. On the more radical side, she strongly advocates reparations for slavery.

She is a social justice warrior, but does so with a light touch without attacking others. She promotes moral patriotism in emphasizing that America, though imperfect, has stood for great things throughout its history. Americans have done the morally right thing many times before and we can do so in the future. It’s a message of making America great again, just without any hint of cynicism. It isn’t empty rhetoric to manipulate supporters and win votes. If nothing else, she is sincere. That isn’t what we’ve come to expect from presidential hopefuls. Then again, maybe it is exactly what we need, if only to change the public mood and shift public debate.

Along with her time in the Unity Church, the ACIM informs her vision for humanity and America. It has shaped me as well. My grandmother read the ACIM and, when I was in high school, I read my grandmother’s copy of it. It is particularly popular in the Unity Church**, the New Thought Christianity also introduced to my family by my grandmother. Williamson was the major force behind the ACIM’s rise into public awareness, along with Gerald Jampolsky as a guest on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power tv program (Schuller being the all time most influential prosperity preacher; certainly, my mother’s favorite). The ACIM message reached a much larger audience by way of Oprah Winfrey promoting Williamson and her writings. Some people like to portray Williamson as Oprah’s spiritual guru, but that seems more like a way of dismissing the message, whatever one may think of New Age religion (I’m personally of mixed opinion, having been around it my entire life).

Williamson will be in the second Democratic debate hosted by NBC, along with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. She is the only candidate, as far as I know, who is openly speaking about spirituality and religion. Interestingly, as a longtime Democrat, she will be the most religious candidate in either party. I guess New Age religion is moving up in the world. She represents the most potent antithesis of everything Donald Trump stands for. As he promotes hatred and division, she speaks of love and unity: “We have to shift from a sense that we are separate to a shift that we are one. That is the only way the 21st century will be survivable. Our technology has so outdistanced our wisdom that we are a threat to ourselves.”

Public religiosity has been dominated by the Republican Party since the Fundamentalists gained a foothold in the Reagan administration, although we have to blame Jimmy Carter for introducing Evangelicalism onto the national stage and making it respectable. For many decades now, the loudest voices and most powerful forces of religion have worshipped an authoritarian demiurge of fear, hatred, and judgment. Now here is a religious leader entering the political fray with a message that declares that the God inspires our worship is of love and nothing but love, a God who speaks truth instead of lies, a God known through personal transformation and radical vision, not from institutional authority and righteous dogma. That is quite different than the right-wing ‘god’ who creates his own pseudo-truths, as do his followers, and then forces them upon the world. Williamson is part of the reality-based community, but she elevates reality to a faith in Reality, that truth isn’t a mere convenience of opinion that we bend to our preferred biases and agendas. Truth remains, as always, and it will overcome what is false like shadows before the light of the sun — I might note, according to the earliest Pauline tradition, this is the original teaching of Jesus Christ.

Even if you’re not religious and are opposed to New Agey woo, even if you’re an atheist or simply not a Christian, still understand this represents an interesting turning point and a challenge to the status quo. The Republican Party has embraced Trump, a man raised in a different strain of positive thinking Christianity, that of Norman Vincent Peale who had more of a right-wing lean. But this conflict within religion is quite ancient. It goes back to the early Church. Williamson is defending a theology that once was at the heart of Christianity before being expelled by later heresiologists. Her message of love is the return of one of the earliest strains of radical thought, at a time when Christianity was challenging another abusive power of this world, the Roman Empire. The situation isn’t fundamentally different under the American Empire (“The Empire never ended!” PKD), even if not yet reaching the same height of brutality, not quite yet. The times change, along with the ruling powers of this world, but this ancient message of hope is continually resurrected.***

– – – –

* For those unfamiliar, ACIM is one of the most popular New Age texts that uses Christian language and, according to Kenneth Wapnick, Valentinian theology. Valentinus, one of the earliest Church Fathers and in the Pauline tradition, introduced the Trinity into Christianity. According to Clement of Alexandria, his followers said that he learned under Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of Paul the Apostle. Marcion, first collector of the Pauline Epistles (as argued by Robert M. Price) and originator of the earliest New Testament canon, was another famous student of Theudas. In following the radical Pauline vision, both Valentinus and Marcion preached about a God of love, forgiveness, and mercy.

This was part of a direct lineage of wisdom, maybe more similar to Eastern traditions of mysticism and meditation or else something along the lines of the Roman mystery schools. Supposedly taught to Paul’s inner circle, this was a personal vision of the risen Christ (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:2–4; Acts 9:9–10), and one might note that Paul never claimed historical literalism (and so this lends itself to a docetist interpretation) for the Christ he spoke of always was a spiritual figure that transformed the individual supplicant, akin to Enlightenment. Never once did Paul describe a physical Jesus, which is truly bizarre if such a Jesus existed for Paul converted to Christianity during the time when later Gospels claimed Jesus was still alive and yet Paul never bothered to seek out Jesus, as he apparently was fully content with the spiritual Christ. Considering no historical record of a Jesus Christ has ever been discovered, not even in the writings of the most famous Jewish historian of the era, one is forced to conclude that speculating about a historical Jesus is meaningless since it obviously held no meaning to the earliest faithful such as Paul.

It might be seen as similar to other traditions labeled as Gnostic, that is if one interprets this vision of Christ as secret knowledge of an elite or an elect. But one might argue it is more similar to the anti-elitist strain of some later Protestant or Anabaptist faiths in how Valentinianism upholds a personal relationship to God that depends on no institutional authority as mediator. His monism resonates with Eastern religion and philosophy. Evil, in this worldview, has no fundamental reality and, instead, is an illusion or error. In not understanding the monistic essence, some mistake this as dualism associated with Gnosticism. But if Valentinus and Marcion were Gnostics, then so was Paul and, with this in mind, we should acknowledge that Paul’s writings are the earliest known Christian texts. Many have argued that the Paul’s teachings were the prototype of both Christianity and Gnosticism, the two traditions maybe having originally been the same faith or else emerged from the same milieu.

Rather than the dualism of good and evil that has long plagued Christianity (as inherited from Judaicized Zoroastrianism and as incorporated from Augustine’s Manichaeanism), Valentinus’ monistic system of faith reconciled the Trinity within the one true divine source. Despite the denial of the Trinity, the closest modern equivalent to this monism would be Unitarianism, specifically in relation to Universalism as Valentinus also had a broad vision of salvation (besides the Unitarian-Universalists, the Unity Church also holds to these doctrines). Despite being called a Gnostic according to those who seized power within the Church, Valentinus was a leader in the early Church long before any heresiologists came along to slander anyone as not being a real Christian and centuries before the Nicene Council. His Christianity was original and, if anything, what came after was revisionism.

Gospel of Truth
(written by Valentinus or his followers)

“Therefore, if one has knowledge, his is from above. If he is called, he hears, he answers, and he turns to him who is calling him, and ascends to him. And he knows in what manner he is called. Having knowledge, he does the will of the one who called him, he wishes to be pleasing to him, he receives rest. Each one’s name comes to him. He who is to have knowledge in this manner knows where he comes from and where he is going. He knows as one who, having become drunk, has turned away from his drunkenness, (and) having returned to himself, has set right what are his own.

“He has brought many back from error. He has gone before them to their places, from which they had moved away, since it was on account of the depth that they received error, the depth of the one who encircles all spaces, while there is none that encircles him. It was a great wonder that they were in the Father, not knowing him, and (that) they were able to come forth by themselves, since they were unable to comprehend or to know the one in whom they were. For if his will had not thus emerged from him – for he revealed it in view of a knowledge in which all its emanations concur.”

– – – –

** Let me offer some historical context, but specifically about the United States. So-called New Age thinking began quite early. Of course, you find it rooted in the Axial Age. But you also see evidence of it in the various mystical and spiritual schools of thought that kept erupting throughout European history. Following the Protestant Reformation, the idealistic Anabaptists, Huguenots, Quakers, Shakers, etc brought a political edge to religiosity — all of which shaped England during the English Civil War and shaped the American colonies during the same period. Consider Roger Williams’ version of the Baptist faith, as radical as they came in that era and remains radical to this day.

The Enlightenment kicked this into high gear with such things as Mesmerism which would later influence not only psychology by way of hypnotism and hypnotheraphy but also positive thinking, new thought, and prosperity gospel. The American Founders were often quite radical in their views, such as many of them being Unitarians, Universalists, and Deists. Thomas Paine, like a number of others, challenged the historicity of Jesus Christ and other Biblical stories, not that he was making a docetist argument. The American Revolution might not have happened without this religious fervor and the theological challenge to the British Empire. In asserting natural law above human law, in declaring everyone was an equal before God, this moral righteousness struck directly at the heart of abusive power.

From the American Revolution to the decades following the American Civil War, there was an emerging sensibility about religion and spirituality. It was the the period of the second and third Great Awakenings, involving the spread of what was then radical Evangelicalism (giving voice to women and challenging slavery), along with Transcendentalism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, etc. This would come to shape 20th century progressivism and liberalism. The Unity Church formed in the late 19th century, having taken shape amidst the Evangelical unrest of the Populist Era. Besides offering a more positive message, they early on were advocates of vegetarianism; also, women were allowed greater participation and at least by the time I was a kid they were proponents of same sex marriage. The New Age is as American as apple pie.

– – – –

*** This isn’t limited to Christianity, of course. The same basic message was preached by all of the major Axial Age prophets. It has been the defining feature, the radical heart of all that has followed since, including the universal idealism that erupted during the Enlightenment.

This vision has been persistent in its challenge. It is unsurprising that Christians, as with the faithful of other religions, have so often failed to live up to it. But one wouldn’t mind all the failure so much if there were more believers who took the message seriously in the first place, serious enough to attempt to genuinely follow such high ideals. Instead, most failure of faith comes from a weakness or lack of faith. It is a rare Christian I’ve met in my life who has even bothered to try to live according to Jesus’ example and his simple teachings of love, as such extremes of self-sacrifice are inconvenient.

Marianne Williamson is making the humble suggestion that maybe, just maybe religion doesn’t have to be equated with heartless hypocrisy, doesn’t have to make a moral compromise with cynical realpolitik. Nor that spiritual transformation is inherently separate from political revolution, a truth that has been embodied by many visionary leaders before, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. This has been the challenge of Axial Age idealism for more than two millennia.

– – – –

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“We forgot.”

When somebody asked Alexander Hamilton why the Framers hadn’t mentioned God in the Constitution, his answer was deadpan hilarious: “We forgot.”
~ Kurt Andersen

The 18th century captures the American imagination, for reasons that are obvious and less so. It was a pivotal point and many were aware of it at the time. Over the preceding centuries, Feudalism slowly declined for numerous reasons. The most obvious force of change was the enclosure movement that evicted peasants from their land, their homes, and their communities.

This created a teeming population of landless peasants who were homeless, unemployed, and often starving. This sent waves of refugees heading for the cities and later the colonies. It was a direct attack on the rights of commoners (what the American colonists referred to as the rights of Englishmen). With the loss of Feudalism, there was the loss the Church’s traditional role and intimate participation in the daily lives of communities (see Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich). There also was the compounding impact of the Renaissance, Peasants’ Revolt, Reformation, English Civil War, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, and expanding colonial imperialism.

Yet, even as the early revolutionary era came to a close, much of the ancient world or the immediate sense of its loss was still fresh in living memory, at least for the older generations. Post-Reformation religious war went hand in hand with political and economic radicalism with early signs of class war, populism, and communism showing up as Feudalism waned, from the Peasants’ Revolt to the English Civil War. Immediately preceding the American Revolution, there was the First Great Awakening which kept alive the earlier radicalism while pushing it to further extremes, this being the initial motivation for the separation of church and state since the religious dissenters were being excluded and oppressed by Anglican state power.

Yet most Americans at the time weren’t formally religious. There were few ministers in the colonies, especially in rural areas. Americans had low rates of church attendance, with rates not increasing until the 19th century (see The Churching of America by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark). It was precisely this lack of formal religion that fed into a new rabid free-for-all where anyone’s religiosity was as good as another’s, where anyone could become a preacher and start their own sect or turn to whatever ideology they preferred, religious or anti-religious. This is how the influences of Reformation and Enlightenment melded together, creating a force greater than either alone.

Even so, the First Great Awakening didn’t directly impact many Americans. Those who heard the fiery preachers of the time were a small part of the population, although in certain cities it led to great tumult. The effect was uneven, some places unaware a change was happening. It was a slow build up of unrest as the American colonies moved toward revolution. It wasn’t so much religion itself but broader cultural shifts. The radical religious were getting louder but so were the radical irreligious. Both hereticism and secularism became virulent, sometimes flowing together as a single force, but not always.

Also, none of it fit into clear class lines. The upper class were filled with unitarians, universalists, deists, and secularists — this was seen in the founding generation but began to take hold earlier such as with Thomas Morton and Roger Williams. But some of the most heretical anti-Christians emerged from the working class, the most famous being Thomas Paine but included several other influential figures. The growing rift was not even so much between Christianity and atheism, rather more between establishment power and the challenges of dissent. On either side of the divide, many voices found themselves formed into a new alignment, voices that otherwise would have been antagonistic.

As with our present moment, the era preceding revolution was a struggle between the contented and the restless, with the former becoming more authoritarian and the latter more radicalized. That schism is a wound that has never healed. The American soul remains fractured. The caricature of culture war spectacle won’t save us. It’s not about religion. The American Founders didn’t forget about God. It wasn’t the issue that mattered then nor that matters now. Religiosity and heresy, even when they take center stage, are always expressions of or proxies for something else.

* * *

Fantasyland, How America Went Haywire:
A 500-Year History

by Kurt Andersen
pp. 56-59

Chapter 8
Meanwhile, in the Eighteenth-Century Reality-Based Community

THE TWENTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD PHENOM GEORGE WHITEFIELD arrived in America for the first time just before All Saints’ Day, Halloween 1739. The first major stop on his all-colonies tour was Philadelphia. Crowds equal to half the inhabitants of the city gathered to see each performance. Among them was the not-so-religious young printer and publisher Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin was astonished by how Whitefield could “bring men to tears by pronouncing Mesopotamia, ” and “how much they admired and respected him, notwithstanding his common Abuse of them, by assuring them they were naturally half Beasts and half Devils.” The publisher introduced himself on the spot and signed up to print a four-volume set of Whitefield’s journals and sermons, which became an enormous bestseller. But Franklin’s only awakening during the Great Awakening was to the profits available by pandering to American religionists. Over the next three years, he published an evangelical book almost monthly. With Whitefield himself, Franklin wrote, he formed “no religious Connection.”

Franklin and his fellow Founders’ conceptions of God tended toward the vague and impersonal, a Creator who created and then got out of the way. The “enthusiasts” of the era—channelers of the Holy Spirit, elaborate decoders of the divine plan, proselytizers—were not their people. John Adams fretted in a letter to Jefferson that his son John Quincy might “retire…to study prophecies to the end of his life.” Adams wrote to a Dutch friend that the Bible consists of “millions of fables, tales, legends,” and that Christianity had “prostituted” all the arts “to the sordid and detestable purposes of superstition and fraud.” George Washington “is an unbeliever,” Jefferson once reckoned, and only “has divines constantly about him because he thinks it right to keep up appearances.” Jefferson himself kept up appearances by attending church but instructed his seventeen-year-old nephew to “question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” He considered religions “all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies,” including “our particular superstition,” Christianity. One winter in the White House, President Jefferson performed an extraordinary act of revisionism: he cut up two copies of the New Testament, removing all references to miracles, including Christ’s resurrection, and called the reassembled result The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth . “As to Jesus of Nazareth,” Franklin wrote just before he died, “I have…some doubts as to his Divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon…and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.”

When somebody asked Alexander Hamilton why the Framers hadn’t mentioned God in the Constitution, his answer was deadpan hilarious: “We forgot.”

Yet ordinary American people were apparently still much more religious than the English. In 1775 Edmund Burke warned his fellow members of Parliament that the X factor driving the incipient colonial rebellion was exactly that, the uppity Americans’ peculiar ultra-Protestant zeal. For them, Burke said, religion “is in no way worn out or impaired.”

Thus none of the Founders called himself an atheist. Yet by the standards of devout American Christians, then and certainly now, most were blasphemers. In other words, they were men of the Enlightenment, good-humored seculars who mainly chose reason and science to try to understand the nature of existence, the purposes of life, the shape of truth. Jefferson said Bacon, Locke, and Newton were “the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception.” Franklin, close friends with the Enlightenment philosophe Voltaire, * was called “the modern Prometheus” by the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, and Adams was friends with the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, whose 1748 essay “Of Miracles” was meant to be “an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion.” America’s political founders had far more in common with their European peers than with the superstar theologians barnstorming America to encourage superstitious delusion. “The motto of enlightenment,” Kant wrote the year after America won its war of independence, “is… Sapere aude! ” or Dare to know. “Have courage to use your own understanding!”

For three centuries, the Protestant Reformation and the emerging Enlightenment were strange bedfellows, symbiotically driving the radical idea of freedom of thought, each paving the way for the success of the other. Protestants decided they could reject the Vatican and start their own religion, and they continued rejecting the authority and doctrines of each new set of Protestant bosses and started their own new religions again and again. Enlightenment thinkers took freedom of thought a step further, deciding that people were also free to put supernatural belief and religious doctrine on the back burner or reject them altogether.

But the Enlightenment part of this shift in thinking was a double-edged sword. The Enlightenment liberated people to believe anything whatsoever about every aspect of existence—true, false, good, bad, sane, insane, plausible, implausible, brilliant, stupid, impossible. Its optimistic creators and enthusiasts ever since have assumed that in the long run, thanks to an efficient marketplace of ideas, reason would win. The Age of Reason had led to the Enlightenment, smart rationalists and empiricists were behind both, so…right?

No. “The familiar and often unquestioned claim that the Enlightenment was a movement concerned exclusively with enthralling reason over the passions and all other forms of human feeling or attachment, is…simply false,” writes the UCLA historian Anthony Pagden in The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters . “The Enlightenment was as much about rejecting the claims of reason and of rational choice as it was about upholding them.” The Enlightenment gave license to the freedom of all thought, in and outside religion, the absurd and untrue as well as the sensible and true. Especially in America. At the end of the 1700s, with the Enlightenment triumphant, science ascendant, and tolerance required, craziness was newly free to show itself. “Alchemy, astrology…occult Freemasonry, magnetic healing, prophetic visions, the conjuring of spirits, usually thought sidelined by natural scientists a hundred years earlier,” all revived, the Oxford historian Keith Thomas explains, their promoters and followers “implicitly following Kant’s injunction to think for themselves. It was only in an atmosphere of enlightened tolerance that such unorthodox cults could have been openly practiced.”

Kant himself saw the conundrum the Enlightenment faced. “Human reason,” he wrote in The Critique of Pure Reason, “has this peculiar fate, that in one species of its knowledge”—the spiritual, the existential, the meaning of life—“it is burdened by questions which…it is not able to ignore, but which…it is also not able to answer.” Americans had the peculiar fate of believing they could and must answer those religious questions the same way mathematicians and historians and natural philosophers answered theirs.

* “As long as there are fools and rascals,” Voltaire wrote in 1767, “there will be religions. [And Christianity] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd…religion

Response to Rogerson’s Review

Anomalist 12: The Universe Wants to Play 

Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

My response:

I can’t say that I disagree for the most part with Rogerson’s view here, but I have one criticism about his comments on heresy hunting in science.

It’s true that many anomalists fall into conspiracy theorizing about mainstream science, but such an attitude isn’t entirely unfounded.  There are examples of scientists of unpopular views having their work confiscated, destroyed or simply ignored.  Scientists have at times been imprisoned or driven to suicide.

These cases are not typical, but they exist.  Scientists don’t normally act that way and I have general faith in scientific progress despite some of it’s failings and limitations.  I’d like to think that such rare cases have become even more rare and that science is becoming more openminded in it’s appreciation of multiple viewpoints.

I still think it’s important to keep in mind that scientists are just fallible humans like everyone else and science like anything else has unsavory incidents in its history.  I’m happy to admit that science is far less oppressive than religion has been in the past, but even with religion heavy-handed oppression wasn’t the norm.  Ridicule and dismissal have always been more effective methods of control.  A good analysis of the limitations of science can be found in George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal.

Anomalists should avoid a hostile attitude towards science, but they shouldn’t withhold criticism that is well deserved.  Mainstream scientists need anomalists to keep them honest… just as anomalists need mainstream scientists to keep them honest.

Egyptian Christianity: Origins and Destruction

OsirisDionysus– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Osiris-Dionysus is used by some historians of religion[1] to refer to a group of deities worshipped around the Mediterranean in the centuries prior to the emergence of Jesus. It has been argued that these deities were closely related and shared many characteristics, most notably being male, partly-human, born of virgins, life-death-rebirth deities and other similar characteristics.

The Egyptian god Osiris and the Greek god Dionysus had been equated as long ago as the 5th century BC by the historian Herodotus (see interpretatio graeca). By Late Antiquity, some Gnostic and Neoplatonist thinkers had expanded this syncretic equation to include Aion, Adonis, Attis, Mithras and other gods of the mystery religions. The composite term Osiris-Dionysus is found around the start of the first century BC, for example in Aegyptiaca by Hecateus of Abdera, and in works by Leon of Pella.

The JesusMysteries – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Freke and Gandy base the Jesus Mysteries thesis partly on a series of parallels between their suggested biography of Osiris-Dionysus and the biography of Jesus drawn from the four canonical gospels. Their suggested reconstruction of the myth of Osiris-Dionysus, compiled from the myths of ancient dying and resurrected “godmen,” bears a striking resemblance to the gospel accounts. The authors give a short list of parallels at the beginning of the book:

Later chapters add further parallels, including Mary’s 7 month pregnancy.

Serapis– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Serapis (Latin spelling, or Sarapis in Greek) was a syncretic HellenisticEgyptian god in Antiquity. His most renowned temple was at Alexandria,[1]. Under Ptolemy Soter, efforts were made to integrate Egyptian religion with that of their Hellenic rulers. Ptolemy’s policy was to find a deity that should win the reverence alike of both groups, despite the curses of the Egyptian priests against the gods of the previous foreign rulers (i.e Set who was lauded by the Hyksos). Alexander the Great had attempted to use Amun for this purpose, but he was more prominent in Upper Egypt, and not as popular with those in Lower Egypt, where the Greeks had stronger influence. The Greeks had little respect for animal-headed figures, and so a Greek-style anthromorphic statue was chosen as the idol, and proclaimed as the equivalent of the highly popular Apis.[2]It was named Aser-hapi (i.e. Osiris-Apis), which became Serapis, and was said to be Osiris in full, rather than just his Ka (life force).

Water into Wine, Tom Harpur

p 242: When it comes to the widespread first-century cult of Serapis, Barb explains: “Serapis is fundamentally Osiris/Horus… and he serves as the expression of monotheistic tendencies: [there is] one god, Serapis,” it says on numerous monuments.

Christ in Egypt, D.M. Murdock

pp 31-32: As in Christianity, within the Egyptian solar religion the sun god’s power is illustrated by the divine qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence and oniscience, typically defining the god of the cosmos within monotheism.  For example, demonstrating his omnipresence, the God Sun is contained in everything, as in the Great Hymn,” which addresses the sun as “you create millions of incarnations from yourself, the One.”6  In a section about the god “Re-Horakhty,” Dr. Assman entitles a selection of hymns, “oOmnipresence of the Light: God-Filled World.’  This material reflecting omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience includes scriptures such as: “Every way is full of your light”; “Are you not the leader on all ways?”; and “There are no limits to the field of his vision and no place hidden to his ka.”1  The ka is defined by James Allen as the “force of conscious omniscience in its worshippers – called in the texts the “sun-folks”3 – as highlighted in this line from a sun hymn: “The morning sun which enables one to know all things.”4

This concept of the “omniscience of light” is part of the “new solar theology” in which “the unattainably distant sun comes palpably near to earth creatures,” providing ” the idea of the simultaneous remoteness and proximity of god…”5 The German scholar next says:

The idea of proximity of god arises not from the sensual experience of light, but from the transcendental idea of a divine omniscience and omnipresence, in which god is right next to the heart “that turns to him.”6

As we can see, the Egyptian concept of God here is highly reminiscent of that found in Judeo-Christianity.  The Egyptian God Sun is also depicted as hearing “the prayers of all who call him.”7

pp 53-54: Regarding the Egyptian and Christian trinities and scriptural parallels, Morenz is prompted to conclude, “The multifarious links between Egypt and Judeo-Christian scriptures and trinitariantheology can already be traced with some degree of plausibility.”5  In his discussion of “Egyptian trinities,” as he terms them, Morenz includes a section addressing the idea of “unity in plurality.”6  The German scholar also points out that a “trinity” can likewise be created out of the “primordial One” and “the first pair of gods to be begotten”7  Regarding the motif of the trinity, Morenz further states:

…thus three gods are combined and treated as a single being, adressed in the singular.  In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.

Deconstructing Jesus, Robert M. Price

p 26: Egypt presents us with the same picture yet again.  The first attested workers for Christ there were the Gnostics Valentinus, Basilides, Apelles, Carpocrates, and his son Isidore.  Phlegon preserves a letter attributed to Hadrian noting that all Christian priests in Egypt worshipped Serapis, too!  The leading gospels in Egypt, the Gospels according to the Hebrews and according to the Egyptians, as far as we can tell from their extant fragments, were Gnostic or heretical in color.  Bauer could detect no trace of Demetrius.  But does not tradition make the gospel-writer Mark the first bishop of Egypt?  Indeed it does, but like the letters of Jesus and Abgarus, this legend seems to be but another spurious “orthodox” origin for Egyptian Christianity (assuming Mark and his gospel could themselves be judged orthodox!).

pp 26-27: About the Nag Hammadi library – “What makes this discovery all the more astonishing is that associated documents show the collection of leather-bound volumes to have been from the monastic library of the Brotherhood of Saint Pachomius, the first known Christian monastery.  Apparently when the monks received the Easter Letter from Athanasius in 367 C.E., which contains the first known listing of the canonical twenty-seven New Testament books, warning the faithful to read no others, the brethren must have decided to hide their cherished “heretical gospels, lest they fall into the hands of the ecclesiastical book burners.  We may perhaps take that monastery as a cameo, a microcosm of Egyptian Christianity in the fourthcentury, diverse in doctrine, though soon to suffocate beneath the smothering veil of catholic orthodoxy.

Christ in Egypt, D.M. Murdock

pp 23-24: Dr. Richard A. Gabriel in Jesus the Egyptian… tersely recounts this disturbing history:

In 356 C.E. ConstantiusII ordered the Egyptian temples of Isis-Osiris closed and forbade the use of Egyptian hieroglyphics as a religious language.  In 380 C.E. Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the official Roman state religion and all pagan cults were thereafter forbidden.  These edicts were devastating to the Egyptian culture and religion, both of which had been preserved over millennia through the Egyptian language and the writing systems of Egyptian priests.  In 391 C.E., the patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus, summoned the monks to arms and turned them against the city of Memphis and the great shrine of Serapis, the Serapeum, the main temple of the Osiran-Isis religion.  The attack was akin to ordering the destruction of the Vatican.  Egyptian priests were massacred in their shrines and in the streets.  The ferocity of the violence consumed priests, followers, and the Egyptian intellectual elite of Alexandria, Memphis and the other cities of Egypt who were murdered and their temples and libraries destroyed.  The institutional structure of Egyptian religion, then more than four millennium old, was demolished in less than two decades.”

The World of Augustine

I was just thinking I should do a post about the context of Augustine’s life.  It was an interesting moment in history.

Constantine died less than two decades before Augustine was born.  The first Council of Nicea had profound impact, but the Empire was still largely Pagan.  Constantine himself mixed Christianity and Paganism.  Constantine probably didn’t even really distinguish between the different varieties of sun worship.  He probably understood Jesus in the terms of his own understanding of Pagan sun gods who also were saviors.  In fact, Constantine carried on the Roman tradition of Sol Invictus.  He wasn’t even baptized until on his death bed.  Certainly, he was far from being an exemplary Christian Emperor.  He was ruthless and it’s likely he chose Christianity in order to try to prop up the Empire that was already starting to show hints of weakening.  The major contribution he made was that in legalizing Christianity he encouraged a legalistic approach to defining Christianity.  Orthodoxy is rooted in this legalistic tradition.

Eusebius became the Emperors official propagandist and is now known as the first major Church historicist.  However, modern academics have shown that he was very loose with the truth.  It was a common practice amongst the Church Fathers to lie and deceive partly because people in general at the time were less idealistic about objective truth.  Also, the common style of debate was aggressively polemical.  I’ve read that the first few centuries of Christianity created more scriptural forgeries and alterations than almost any other period of Western history.  The early Christians were quite industrious in manufacturing their religion.

It should be noted that by the fourth century, Christianity had changed quite a bit.  The earliest Christian commentators were considered heretical by the end of the second century, and the Christian commentators of the third century were also starting to seem suspect by the fourth century heresiologists.  Christianity was evolving very quickly.  By the time Christianity was legalized, Christians were beginning to forget their own origins.  The sects that were based on the earliest commentaries were now heretical.  Heresiology was the foundation of orthodoxy.  As an example, Basilides wrote the earliest commentaries of any Christian.  He was alive in the first century and would’ve known the very first Christians.  Guess who destroyed his work?  Later Christians.  If there ever was a single original Christianity, the fighting between Christians very well may have entirely annihalated it by the third century.  And by the fourth and fifth centuries, the Church Fathers were creating creeds that probably had only a vague connection to the beliefs of first century Christians.

Anyways, the Nicene Creed set forth the doctrine of the Trinity… which by the way has no scriptural foundation as the Trinity was Pagan in origin.  Augustine’s understanding of the Trinity came from Neo-Platonism.  But not all Christians believed in a Trinity.  Arianism was the major opposing opinion and is named after one of the dissenting voices at the Council of Nicea.  Some of the Emperors of the fourth century were Arian Christians.  Arianism had become quite popular and was probably the single biggest issue of the fourth century and would survive for several more centuries.

 In the middle of the fourth century, Julian the Apostate temporarily revived Paganism as the official state religion when Augustine was a child.  Besides the still strong traditions of Paganism, there were many traditions of Christianity.  Possibly the largest (psuedo-) Christian tradition in the world at that time was Manichaeism.  I say ‘pseudo’ because Mani included many influences, but still it was Christian.  The Manichaean Christ was worshipped as a solar deity and this was a major component of Augustine’s early education in Christianity.

Astrology and astro-theology in general was a major force in the ancient world.  Many early Christians referred to Jesus as Sol, and it was a practice within the early Catholic church to pray towards the rising sun.  The early Christian allegorists were aware of the astrotheological symbolism within Christianity.  Augustine certainly would’ve been aware of this as well.  It was through the allegorical interpretations of Ambrose that Judeo-Christian scripture began to seem respectable to Augustine.  Ambrose had connected Jesus to the sun, but Augustine denied this connection.  So, sun worship was still a major issue within the Church even as Catholicism was coming into power.

The distinction between Christianity and Paganism wasn’t absolutely clear at that time because Christianity and the Roman Empire grew up together.  The two were inseparable.  Augustine admitted that Christianity began before Jesus in earlier religions.  This was a Neo-Platonic view of Christianity that Augustine was less accepting of later in life.  Even Eusebius the greatest Christian propagandist who ever lived admitted to the similarities between Christianity and Paganism.  These similarities were so obvious that it was pointless in trying to deny them.  Unlike modern Christians, many of the early Church Fathers had educations in Paganism.  Anyways, in the ancient world it gave a religion respectability to show that it has its roots in older traditions.  There was no more embarassment in admitting Christianity had Pagan roots than in admitting it had Jewish roots.  However, in the fourth century, it was starting to become more important to explain it  away.  Christianity needed to justify its growing dominance, and so it became necessary to increasingly distinguish itself from Paganism.  It would take until the sixth century for Catholicism to destroy all of the institutions of Classical Paganism.

Along with this, it became necessary for Catholic orthodoxy to distinguish itself from the diverse traditions of Christianity.  Catholicism was only barely becoming the dominant form of Christianity in the fourth century.   Basically, all of the heresies named in the second and third centuries were still around.  The Marcionites and the Valentinians were the most influnential sects of early Christianity and they were still living traditions.  Gnosticism was everywhere and it was rather difficult to distinguish it from orthodoxy as there was much cross-pollination.  Augustine himself was a good example of cross-polination as he first seriously studied Christianity as a Manichaean Gnostic.  That might be why he was critical of the Old Testament before meeting Ambrose.  The New Testament was originally canonized by the Gnostic Marcion in order to create a Christian canon separate from and opposed to the Jewish scripture.

Along with the early heresies, new ones were also popping up.  Two traditions that Augustine fought to make heretical were Donatism and Pelagianism.  The Donatists were a schism from Augustine’s homeland of North Africa.  The Donatists believed that once someone had denied Catholicism they shouldn’t be allowed back into the Church.  This relates to Pelagianism as well.  Pelagius was the same age as Augustine and he also preached the necessity of believers being held responsible for their actions.  Augustine opposed these two groups because he held the fatalistic belief that everyone was born a sinner.  As such, believers and clergy shouldn’t be expected to be morally better than anyone else.  Augustine’s created the Christian foundations for the theory of just war in his criticisms of the Donatists.  His oratorical and legal arguments led to the declaration of heresy against the Donatists and their harsh persecution which he only partly protested against.  These heresies, however, would continue to attract adherents for centuries to come.

In 379, Theodosius I became Roman Emperor.  He united the Eastern and Western Empire and was the last Emperor to rule both.  Also, he made the Nicene Creed the official state religion.  Augustine was still a Manichaean at this time and this must’ve influenced his later decision in 386 to convert to Catholicism.  In 381, Theodosius I began to inhibit Paganism.  In 388, he began the persecution and destruction of Paganism.  This was the Catholicism that Augustine converted to and which he helped to support.

After Theodosius reign, the beginning of the fifth century was more of the same.  The last remnants of Egyptian religion was destroyed.  Also, Hypatia (the last great Pagan teacher, philosopher, and mathematician) was killed by a Christian mob.  I don’t know what Augustine’s opinion was about this destruction of Pagan culture all around him, but he certainly took notice of the sacking of Rome.  Rome was attacked by the Visigoths who were Arian Christians.  Augustine wrote The City of God in response to the fall of Rome because Pagans were blaming Christians for this event.   At the end of his life, the Arian Vandals were ravaging Roman Africa.  Augustine was on his deathbed in Hippo when it was overrun by Vandals.

St. Augustine: online material

Thus, this is not the only paradox that Origen engages in. Origen absolutely rejected the Docetists, yet his teachings on the nature of Christ borrowed heavily from Docetism. He argued against Gnosticism, yet accepted the Emanation theory of creation, and the concept of the Logos. He rejected Plotinist Dualism, yet accepted material as an “accidental” creation caused by the fall–thus matter was not evil, but was never intended.
In the long and difficult controversy with the Pelagians, Augustine found his own earlier writings on the will cited by his opponents as evidence that he himself once advocated the view he came so vehemently to oppose [see Retractationes I.9.3-6]. What is more, he dies just as the Vandals are besieging the gates of Hippo, leaving unfinished yet another work against Julian of Eclanum, a Pelagian opponent of considerable intellectual resources who had, among other things, accused Augustine of holding views indistinguishable from those of the Manicheans whom Augustine had opposed so many years before [Bonner, 1999]. And here, perhaps, is an irony as cruel as it is intriguing: eleven centuries later, when the Church to which Augustine had devoted the last four and a half decades of his life was to split in a manner that still shows no signs of reconciliation, both sides would appeal to Augustine as an authority on questions of doctrine [Muller 1999; Grossi 1999].
Augustine did not develop an independent mariology, but his statements on Mary surpass in number and depths those of other early writers. [46] The Virgin Mary “conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever [47] Even before the Council of Ephesus, he defended the ever Virgin Mary as the mother of God, who, because of her virginity, is full of grace [48] She was free of any temporal sin, [49] Because of a woman, the whole human race was saved. [50]

Saint Augustine, one of the most influential theologians of the Catholic Church, suggested that the Biblical text should not be interpreted literally if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason. From an important passage on his “The Literal Interpretation of Genesis” (early fifth century, AD), St. Augustine wrote:

“It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408])
“With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.” (ibid, 2:9)

In the book, Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven days like a plain account of Genesis would require. He argues that the six-day structure of creation presented in the book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way. Augustine also doesn’t envisage original sin as originating structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall. Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up. [7]

In The City of God, Augustine also defended the idea of a young Earth. Augustine rejected both the immortality of the human race proposed by pagans, and contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church’s sacred writings:

“Let us, then, omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when they speak of the nature and origin of the human race. For some hold the same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that they have always been… They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.” (Augustine, Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World’s Past, The City of God, Book 12: Chapt. 10 [AD 419]).

St. Augustine also comments on the word “day” in the creation week, admitting the interpretation is difficult:

“But simultaneously with time the world was made, if in the world’s creation change and motion were created, as seems evident from the order of the first six or seven days. For in these days the morning and evening are counted, until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!” (City of God, Book 11: Chapt. 6).
Several points should be noted about Augustine’s composite allegorization. First, although he used the Martha/Mary pair that he inherited from Origen more frequently (it has indeed been called his “favorite illustration” [Mason, 36]), the Leah/Rachel pair serves to complement the other one rather well. While he uses the Martha/Mary pair to show the superiority and eternity of the contemplative life, Augustine uses the Leah and Rachel pair as Origen had used the figure of Peter at the Transfiguration: to show that the two lives are complementary, with both being necessary, a point that he returns to several times, as in City of God, viii, 4, “To Plato is given the praise of having perfected philosophy by combining both parts [the active and the contemplative] into one” (cf. de Cons. Evang. i, 12; de Civ. Dei xix, 1, 2, 3, 19). Since both sisters were wives of Jacob (who represents the human soul in both Philo and Augustine), they also offered such a complementary relationship: “No one desires this life for its own sake, as Jacob desired not Leah, who yet was brought to him, and became his wife, and the mother of children. Though she could not be loved of herself, the Lord made her be borne with as a step to Rachel, and then she came to be approved on account of her children” (contra Faustum xxii, 52). (Augustine may be stressing Leah’s role of bearing children since Christ is descended from her, not Rachel.) The fact that one sister was married first and therefore the relationships were sequential also worked well in the allegory (perhaps, Augustine thought, better than the Martha/Mary or Peter/John pairs). It also determined that it would be Leah who would represent the active life; to this end, Augustine, like Philo, quotes Gen 29:26, though for Augustine this is to show the correctness of marrying Leah first. For Augustine, the active life leads to the reward of the contemplative, as marriage to Leah leads to the reward of the beloved Rachel: “So, in the discipline of man, the toil of doing the work of righteousness precedes the delight of understanding the truth” (contra Faustum xxii, 52). (Augustine may also have been influenced in his choice of Leah as the active life by the earlier allegorizations of Justin and Irenaeus [Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 134; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer.] that identified Rachel with the Church and Leah with Israel; since for the Fathers, the Church is superior to Israel, as Rachel is superior to Leah, so here she must represent the superior life of contemplation.) Unlike the Martha/Mary or Peter/John pairs, the Leah/Rachel pair offers an image for the active and contemplative lives in which they are successive and necessary stages, the second of which is the superior, more beloved, and more divine.
The Expository Times extract 
  Origen and Erasmus agree on an exegetical point that was unwelcome to Augustinian thinkers. Erasmus was the first Western exegete to point out that the eph’hô in Romans 5:12 does not mean ‘in whom all had sinned’ but ‘in that all had sinned’. He notes that when Origen says that ‘the death which had come to him from the transgression consequently passed through to them as well, who were dwelling in his loins’ (V, 1.201-3; S 1.311; M 1010) he is not talking of original sin inherited by infants but is ‘showing why the blessed Paul makes neither the devil nor Eve the author of sin’ (Erasmus, 143), and the continuation of Origen’s text shows he is thinking of human imitation of the sin of Adam. Origen argues, in a way Erasmus finds ‘forced’, that ‘sin was passed down only in the world, that is, to those of a worldly spirit’ (see V, 1.215-32; M 1010). This is echoed by Pelagius, in a text ascribed to Jerome: ‘it passed to all those who lived in a human way, rather than divine… to all those who transgressed the natural law… They sinned through the example of Adam’ (Erasmus, 142).
He interpreted scripture allegorically and showed himself to be a Neo-Pythagorean, and Neo-Platonist.[5] Like Plotinus, he wrote that the soul passes through successive stages of incarnation before eventually reaching God.[5] He imagined even demons being reunited with God.
A strict adherent of the Church, Origen yet distinguished sharply between the ideal and the empirical Church, representing “a double church of men and angels”, or, in Platonic phraseology, the lower church and its celestial ideal. The ideal Church alone was the Church of Christ, scattered over all the earth; the other provided also a shelter for sinners. Holding that the Church, as being in possession of the mysteries, affords the only means of salvation, he was indifferent to her external organization, although he spoke sometimes of the office-bearers as the pillars of the Church, and of their heavy duties and responsibilities.

More important to him was the idea borrowed from Plato of the grand division between the great human multitude, capable of sensual vision only, and those who know how to comprehend the hidden meaning of Scripture and the diverse mysteries, church organization being for the former only.

For quite some time, Origen was counted as one of the most important church fathers and his works were widely used in the Church. His exegetical method was standard of the School of Alexandria and the Origenists were an important party in the 4th century debates on Arianism.

Augustine applied Stoic moral psychology in a rather straightforward way and interpreted, it from a theological viewpoint. For the Church Father, the aim of human life was the, union with God, and he described the nature of this union in very emotional, even erotic, terms. However, the union with God corresponded with the Stoic ideal of apatheia in the, sense that it, too, required the extirpation of all desires and emotions that disturbed, virtuous activity in the full command of reason.4,
Augustine differed in an important respect from Aristotle and the Stoics as well as from, all pagan philosophy in the antiquity. The Church Father did not hold it as possible even, in principle for the human beings to reach perfect happiness in the fusion with God by, their own efforts. The differences between Aristotle, the Stoics, and Augustine are rather, subtle here, so I try to express them clearly. All three views agree that there are not too, many humans who are virtuous and wise, but disagree on the explanations of this fact., The rareness of the virtuous is explained by the pagan philosophers, especially Aristotle, by the external circumstances that prevent the natural rational and moral capacities and, inclinations from their development. The Christian tradition represented by Augustine did, not blame circumstances but the original sin. The Christians claimed that the human, moral capacities were internally corrupted in The Fall. The differences between the three, views can also be expressed as follows. For Aristotle, natural human inclinations are, directed towards the good, and the function of virtue is to complete the natural, development. The later Stoics introduced the idea that there are irrational ones among the, natural inclinations, but they still insisted that the humans at least in principle have, resources to combat these inclinations. Augustine held that even the resources to combat, the irrational inclinations are seriously corrupted in all of us.
4 On the influence of ancient psychological theories to the Christian tradition, see especially Simo, Knuuttila, Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon 2004.
In the Augustinean view, the natural movements of the body and soul tear the human, beings away from what is right and from God by necessity, even if the humans may know, the will of God by their reason or by revelation. This is all due to the original sin. The, original sin and its expressions in natural inclinations would not be particularly, reprehensible and the acts of human beings would not be counted as further sins, if they, immediately used their free will to extirpate the passions raised by those appearances that, have a power to move their natural inclinations. Unfortunately, the original sin did not, only corrupt our natural desires, it also corrupted our capacity to use of our free will to, control those desires. Augustine insists that our will is free, and we are responsible for, our use of it. The will weakened by the original sin is, however, only able to express itself, in choices between the different varieties of vice. Virtue is quite beyond reach by our, own efforts.
The Augustinean conception of humanity is painted in much darker colors than its, predecessors in the pagan antiquity. The Stoic influence is still prominent. Human, susceptibility to emotions and impulses that disturb the rational command of life, and the, distinction between two types of psychological movements, those that are direct, consequences of the human nature, and those that are results from voluntary acts of the, will, are to a large extent ideas derived from and expressed in the vocabulary of the Stoic, framework.
Augustine held that if there were no power to control the human beings a violent anarchy, would emerge. However, he made two important amendments that somewhat mitigated, the disastrous consequences of human sinfulness. First, God had established the secular, authority the function of which is to uphold social order and prevent a full chaos, although it cannot make human life any more acceptable to God. Second, God has in his, grace decided to save a modest number of human beings through the Christ to an eternal, happiness without any desert of their own. Salvation is a predestined part of the divine, plan, and human beings possess no capacity to understand why God has decided to do, what he has done. We do not even know, who will be saved and who will be doomed to, an eternal damnation. Even the saved themselves do not know this for certain.
The existence of a forged correspondence between Seneca and St. Paul, accepted as genuine by St. Augustine and St. Jerome, may well have contributed to the thought that it was possible to combine Stoic ethics with Christian teaching.
The atmosphere of North African Christendom in which Augustine grew up reflected the influential thought of Tertullian (d. ca. 220), who asked, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?”5 The porch of Solomon, where Jesus would customarily teach, was sufficient for him. Tertullian then added: “I have no use for a Stoic or a Platonic or a dialectic Christianity. After Jesus we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research.”

Although Tertullian did utilize stoic philosophy, pre-Socratic philosophers, and even Aristotle (who studied at Plato’s academy in Athens, which apparently had more to do with Jerusalem than Tertullian let on), his aversion to philosophy was no secret.6 His fideistic comment, “I believe because it is foolish,”7 was not merely idiosyncratic with Tertullian. Along with his theological successor Cyprian, who was slightly less strident than his master, Tertullian exerted a powerful influence upon North African Christendom’s antiintellectualism.8 Such a remark by Tertullian typified the antiintellectual Christianity among the Catholic clergy of this entire region. For instance Augustine addressed the council of bishops of the African Church in October of 393, an address preserved in his Faith and the Creed. Rather than utilize heavy theological language he had to resort to very plain speech and follow the basic creedal statements of Christianity even for high-ranking church officials.9 In 412 Augustine received a letter from Consentius, a fellow bishop, who reflected this lack of appreciation for the intellect: “God is not to be sought after by reason but followed through authority.”10

Such narrow-mindedness and lack of theological and intellectual rigor are easier to understand when we consider the historical context of the North African Church. By necessity Christians devoted their energies to enduring opposition and even martyrdom up until Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and his making Christianity the official religion of the empire. Christians had been understandably more concerned to gather together to pray and encourage one another than engage in scholarly discussion. But by the time of Augustine, Christians still had not devoted much time and energy to theological reflection or interaction with the intellectual ideas circulating around the Mediterranean region.

The lack of theological rigor had detrimental side effects, one of which was the infiltration of Manichean beliefs into the Church. The Donatists would mock the African Catholic congregations because of the proliferation of Manichean heresies within them. Even Augustine mentioned a subdeacon within the Catholic Church who had concurrently been a member of the Manichees for years. He aroused no one’s suspicion.11 Such a heretical presence within North African Catholicism was commonplace. John O’Meara elaborates:

Men could change their allegiance from Christianity to Manicheism – and vice versa – without attracting as much attention as they would if they had changed to the Donatists. It even happened that Christian ministers were, after many years’ performance of their functions, discovered to have been Manichees all the time.12

The dearth of theological endeavor had yet another negative side effect: authoritarianism and antiintellectualism among North African Catholic clergy. Closemindedness seemed to be characteristic among these Church leaders. Augustine urges the inquirer who desires to find the truth not to despair when he encounters antiintellectualism among the Church leadership:

And should the inquirer meet with some, whether bishops or presbyters, or any officials or ministers of the Catholic Church, who either avoid in all cases opening up mysteries, or, content with simple faith, have no desire for more recondite knowledge, he must not despair of finding the knowledge of the truth in a case where neither are all able to teach to whom the inquiry is addressed, nor are all inquirers worthy of learning the truth. Diligence and piety are both necessary: on the one hand, we must have knowledge to find truth, and on the other hand, we must deserve to get the knowledge.13

Augustine had once been a seeker in just this atmosphere—an authoritarian one in which church leaders offered questioners no reasoned answers but rather intimidated the laity to blindly accept Church teaching without question.14 Eugene Teselle characterizes Augustine’s conservative Catholic environment as stressing “reverence for divine authority at the expense of rational inquiry” and perhaps even “inclined to counsel blind faith.”15 So when the questions Augustine was raising were not answered by the Catholic clergy he looked elsewhere for intellectual satisfaction.

The most important texts of Augustine’s later period are the so-called ‘anti-Pelagian’ writings (dated 400 onwards) and the monumental City of God (completed in 426). The Pelagian conflict splits Augustine’s work through the middle, separating his earlier more “humanist” work (On Free Will, completed 388) from his later, more theocentric thought (Retractations, The City of God).


The controversy stems from what Augustine regards as a serious misinterpretation of his work by Pelagius, in particular Pelagius’ reading of On Free Will. In this latter text, Augustine is addressing the issue of “the origin of evil” and as such his emphasis is on the responsibility for this evil which attaches exclusively to the “free will” of the individual human being. In this context, he makes no reference to “God’s grace” insofar as, for Augustine, God is not responsible in any way for the existence of evil.


However, Pelagius reads this emphasis on free will as a sign that Augustine wishes to make humanity independent of God when it comes to moral action. In other words, Pelagius interprets Augustine’s claim that free will is responsible for evil as a claim that free will can choose between good and evil. This would make free will the basis of moral as well as immoral action and would credit the individual with the ability to be virtuous, independently of God’s grace.


We have already seen in our discussion of On Free Will that there are good textual grounds for such a claim and yet it is precisely this claim which Augustine wishes to unequivocally refute:

Hence the recent Pelagian heretics, who hold a theory of free choice of will which leaves no place for the grace of God, since they hold it is given in accordance with our merits, must not boast of my support (Retractations, Book 1 Chapter 9).

Pelagius has apparently interpreted Augustine’s emphasis on the autonomy of the will out of context. Augustine is now claiming that the will has an exclusively negative autonomy. That is, it is capable of doing wrong on its own volition but not capable of doing good on its own volition. Indeed Augustine tries to show that he has already clarified this very issue in the text On Free Will:

But, though man fell through his own will, he cannot rise through his own will. Therefore, let us believe firmly that God’s arm, that is, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is stretched out to us from on high (2.20.54).

There has been much debate and disagreement about the truth of this situation. Did Pelagius interpret Augustine correctly? Is Augustine being honest about his intentions in On Free Will, or rather did he over-stress human will and seek to pretend otherwise in hindsight? This is a fascinating and ongoing hermeneutic question, but I want to move on from the specifics of it here and address its primary importance from the point of view of our own thematic.

Much of Rome’s previous cultural identity was destroyed during Theodosius’ reign as he sought to transform the pagan west into the Christian east. Despite the fact that it had been less than 80 years since Emperors Diocletian and his cohort Galerius had inaugurated the worst of the great persecutions against Christianity, the entire empire was now expected to instantly convert to the once-despised religion. Constantine had spent a great amount of time and energy in unifying the church, but now that the church was more unified in structure and popularity, the emperor Theodosius found himself being beckoned by the church rather than the other way around. When Theodosius conducted a massacre of some 10,000 people from Thessalonica in revenge for an uprising, St. Ambrose excommunicated him and refused him communion until he acknowledged his sin of shedding innocent blood. At first Theodosius refused, but was eventually forced into several months of public penance at Milan’s cathedral, giving ample proof of the church‘s political power.

The laws banning the traditional gods from the Roman Empire soon took the form of destroying any and all things pagan. Even though Theodosius was at first against this, arguing that Pagan statues should be left intact and temples should be converted into public buildings, he soon bowed to the church’s pressure. The Theodosian Decrees he issued in 391, which are believed to have been heavily influenced by or credited to St. Ambrose, brought about the destruction of the gigantic Serapeum temple in Egypt and its adjacent library, built in the 200s B.C. in honor of the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis. The Latin theologian and historian Tyrannius Rufinus located the destruction in the city of Canopus, but the church historians Sozomen and Socrates of Constantinople placed it in Alexandria. All three make mention of a story, from either 389 or 391, in which the looting Christians were surprised to find symbols so close to the cross: the ankh, the familiar Egyptian symbol of eternal life, and the Tau cross, symbol of Tammuz and root of the letter T. Socrates gives further particulars in his Ecclesiastical History, saying:

“Whilst they were demolishing and despoiling the temple of Serapis, they found characters, engraved in stone, of the kind called hieroglyphics, the which chracters had the figure of the cross. When the Christians and the [Pagan] Greeks saw this, they referred the signs to their own religions. The Christians, who regarded the cross as the symbol of the salutary passion of Christ, thought that this character was their own. But the Greeks said it was common to Christ and Serapis; though this cruciform character is, in fact, one thing to the Christians, and another to the Greeks. A controversy having arisen, some of the Greeks converted to Christianity, who understood the hieroglyphics, interpreted the cross-like figure to signify ‘The Life to come.’ The Christians, seizing on this as in favor of their religion, gathered boldness and assurance; and as it was shown by other sacred characters that the temple of Serapis was to have an end when was brought to light this cruciform character, signifying ‘The Life to come,’ a great number were converted and were baptized, confessing their sins.”

In the 18th century classic, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon provides an exhaustive analysis of the factors leading the empire’s demise. Chief among these reasons is the supplanting of the classical tradition of the Roman community with Christian beliefs. No doubt influenced by works like that of St. Augustine, Gibbon saw Christianity as bringing about a mystical ambivalence that translated into neglect towards the real world. In the 38th chapter, Gibbon writes:

“As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear, without surprise or scandal, that the introduction, or at least the abuse, of Christianity had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of the military spirit were buried in the cloister; a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers’ pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes, who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. Faith, zeal, curiosity, and the more earthly passions of malice and ambition kindled the flame of theological discord; the church, and even the state, were distracted by religious factions, whose conflicts were sometimes bloody, and always implacable; the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to synods; the Roman world was oppressed by a new species of tyranny; and the persecuted sects became the secret enemies of their country. Yet party-spirit, however pernicious or absurd, is a principle of union as well as of dissension. The bishops, from eighteen hundred pulpits, inculcated the duty of passive obedience to a lawful and orthodox sovereign; their frequent assemblies, and perpetual correspondence, maintained the communion of distant churches: and the benevolent temper of the gospel was strengthened, though confined, by the spiritual alliance of the Catholics. The sacred indolence of the monks was devoutly embraced by a servile and effeminate age; but, if superstition had not afforded a decent retreat, the same vices would have tempted the unworthy Romans to desert, from baser motives, the standard of the republic. Religious precepts are easily obeyed, which indulge and sanctify the natural inclinations of their votaries; but the pure and genuine influence of Christianity may be traced in its beneficial, though imperfect, effects on the Barbarian proselytes of the North. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.”

Victorinus at some unknown point left Africa for Rome (hence some modern scholars have dubbed him Afer), probably for a position teaching, and had great success in his career, eventually being promoted to the lowest level of the senatorial order. That promotion probably came at the time when he received an honorific statue in the Forum of Trajan in 354 (Jerome supplied biographical information but was not his student). Victorinus’ conversion from a Platonist to Roman Catholic (c. 355)–“at an advanced old age” according to Jerome– made a great impression on Augustine of Hippo, as recounted in Book 8[1] of the latter’s Confessions.

It is believed Caelestius met Pelagius in the late 4th century in the city of Rome. Pelagius taught that a rigorous moral asceticism was required of Christians by God, Who they said required Christians to struggle against evil behavior using, for the most part, the teachings of the Bible and the example of the Christian saints.

For several decades before the doctrine of sin was fully worked out by the Roman Catholic Church, this teaching brought both of them into numerous theological disputes about the nature of sin with several Christian leaders in the church.

Among them were the Bishop of the northern African Roman province of Hippo, Augustine, (later known as “Saint Augustine,”) and the theologian Jerome. Augustine especially did more than any other Father of the Church to develop the doctrine of Original sin, mostly in reaction to his disputes with Pelagius and Caelestius, which remain in Augustine’s numerous writings.

After they left Rome when it was attacked and burned by the Visigoths in 410, Pelagius and Caelestius faced constant attacks against their teachings by Augustine, Jerome and their followers, who sought to have the Pope declare their views “heretical,” or contrary to Christian teachings.

Throughout their career, both Pelagius and Caelestius found a more welcome reception in the Eastern Roman Empire for their teachings than in the west. This same view is also shared by the German Protestant theologian Hans von Campenhausen in his book “The Fathers of Church” when discussing the relationship of pelagianism with the orthodox champion Saint Augustine.[1]

Theophilus of Alexandria, (died 412) was Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt from 385 to 412. He is regarded as a saint by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

He was a Coptic Pope at a time of conflict between the newly dominant Christians and the pagan establishment in Alexandria, each supported by a segment of the Alexandrian populace.

In 391, Theophilus (according to Rufinus and Sozomen) discovered a hidden pagan temple. He and his followers mockingly displayed the pagan artifacts to the public which offended the pagans enough to provoke an attack on the Christians. The Christian faction counter-attacked, forcing the pagans to retreat to the Serapeum. A letter was sent by the emperor that Theophilus should grant the offending pagans pardon, but destroy the temple.

The destruction of the Serapeum was seen by many ancient and modern authors as representative of the triumph of Christianity over other religions. When the philosopher Hypatia was lynched by an Alexandrian mob, they acclaimed Theophilus’s nephew and successor Cyril as “the new Theophilus, for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city”.[1]

Theophilus turned on the followers of Origen after having supported them for a time. He was accompanied by his nephew Cyril to Constantinople in 403 and there presided at the “Synod of the Oak” that deposed John Chrysostom.

Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347–407, Greek: Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος), archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities.
Chrysostom held Jews responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus and deicide (killing God, see “Jewish deicide” for the subject) and added that they continued to rejoice in Jesus’s death.[37] He compared the synagogue to a pagan temple, representing it as the source of all vices and heresies.[38] He described it as a place worse than a brothel and a drinking shop; it was a den of scoundrels, the repair of wild beasts, a temple of demons, the refuge of brigands and debauchees, and the cavern of devils, a criminal assembly of the assassins of Christ.[39] Palladius, Chrysostom’s contemporary biographer, also recorded his claim that among the Jews the priesthood may be purchased and sold for money.[40] Finally, he declared that he – in accordance with the sentiments of the saints – hated both the synagogue and the Jews.[41]

Chrysostom’s Adversus Judaeos homilies have been circulated by many groups to foster anti-Semitism.[48] James Parkes called the writing on Jews “the most horrible and violent denunciations of Judaism to be found in the writings of a Christian theologian”.[49] His sermons against Jews gave momentum to the idea that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.[50] British historian Paul Johnson claimed that Chrysostom’s homilies “became the pattern for anti-Jewish tirades, making the fullest possible use (and misuse) of key passages in the gospels of Saints Matthew and John. Thus a specifically Christian anti-Semitism, presenting the Jews as murderers of Christ, was grafted on to the seething mass of pagan smears and rumours, and Jewish communities were now at risk in every Christian city.”[51] During World War II, the Nazi Party in Germany abused his work in an attempt to legitimize the Holocaust in the eyes of German and Austrian Christians. His works were frequently quoted and reprinted as a witness for the prosecution.[48]

After World War II, the Christian churches denounced Nazi use of Chrysostom’s works, explaining his words with reference to the historical context. According to Laqueur, it was argued that in the 4th century, the general discourse was brutal and aggressive and that at the time when the Christian church was fighting for survival and recognition, mercy and forgiveness were not in demand.[48] According to Patristics scholars, opposition to any particular view during the late fourth century was conventionally expressed in a manner, utilizing the rhetorical form known as the psogos, whose literary conventions were to vilify opponents in an uncompromising manner; thus, it has been argued that to call Chrysostom an “anti-Semite” is to employ anachronistic terminology in a way incongruous with historical context and record.[52]

It was during Innocent I’s papacy that the siege of Rome by Alaric I (395-410) and the Visigoths (408) took place, when, according to an anecdote of Zosimus, the ravages of plague and famine were so frightful, and divine help seemed so far off, that papal permission was granted to sacrifice and pray to the pagan deities. The pope, however, happened to be absent from the city on a mission to Honorius at Ravenna at the time of the sack in 410.
Pope Saint Anastasius I was pope from November 27, 399 to 401.

He condemned the writings of the Alexandrian theologian Origen shortly after their translation into Latin.

Among his friends were Augustine, Jerome, and Paulinus. Jerome speaks of him as a man of great holiness who was rich in his poverty.

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 340 – c. 402), the cultured and prominent son of a prominent father, Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, in the patrician gens Aurelia, held the offices of proconsul of Africa in 373, urban prefect of Rome in 384 and 385, and consul in 391. A representative of the traditional cursus honorum, Symmachus was a pagan at a time when the senatorial aristocracy was rapidly converting to Christianity.

In 382, the Emperor Gratian, a Christian, ordered the Altar of Victory removed from the Curia, the Roman Senate house in the Forum. Symmachus led a delegation of protest, which the emperor refused to receive. Two years later, Gratian was assassinated in Lugdunum, and Symmachus, now Prefect of Rome, renewed the appeal to Gratian’s successor, Valentinian II, in a famous dispatch that was rebutted by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. In an age when all religious communities credited the divine power with direct involvement in human affairs, Symmachus argues that the removal of the altar had caused a famine and its restoration would be beneficial in other ways. Subtly he pleads for tolerance for traditional cult practices and beliefs that Christianity was poised to suppress in the Theodosian edicts of 391.

Ambrose’s influence upon Theodosius is credited with eliciting the enactment of the “Theodosian decrees” of 391 (see entry Theodosius I).
One interpretation of Ambrose’s writings is that he was a Christian universalist.[12] It has been noted that Ambrose’s theology was significantly influenced by that of Origen and Didymus the Blind, two other early Christian universalists.[12]
He seems to have abstained for a considerable time from the study of the classics and to have plunged deeply into that of the Bible, under the impulse of Apollinaris of Laodicea, then teaching in Antioch and not yet suspected of heresy.

After entering the priesthood, he took an interest in the Priscillianist controversy then going on in his native country. He went to consult with Augustine at Hippo (now Annaba in Algeria) in 413 or 414, possibly in connection with this controversy. After staying for some time in North Africa as Augustine’s disciple, he was reportedly sent by him in 415 to Palestine with a letter of introduction to Jerome, then living in Bethlehem.

The ostensible purpose of his mission (apart from the typical intent of pilgrimage and perhaps relic-hunting) was that he might gain further instruction from Jerome on the points raised by the Priscillianists and Origenists. In reality, it would seem that his business was to assist Jerome and others against Pelagius, who, after the synod of Carthage in 411, had been living in Palestine, and finding some acceptance there.

Priscillian, bishop of Ávila (died 385), a theologian from Roman Gallaecia (in the Iberian Peninsula), was the first person in the history of Christianity to be executed for heresy (though the civil charges were for the practice of magic). He founded an ascetic group that, in spite of persecution, continued to subsist in Hispania and Gaul until the later 6th century.
The long prevalent estimation of Priscillian as a heretic and Manichaean rested upon Augustine, Turibius of Astorga, Leo the Great and Orosius (who quotes a fragment of a letter of Priscillian’s), although at the Council of Toledo in 400, fifteen years after Priscillian’s death, when his case was reviewed, the most serious charge that could be brought was the error of language involved in a misrendering of the word innascibilis (“unbegettable”).
Priscillianism is a Christian doctrine developed in the Iberian Peninsula (the Roman Hispania) in the 4th century by Priscillian, derived from the GnosticManichaean doctrines taught by Marcus, an Egyptian from Memphis, and later considered a heresy by the Roman Catholic Church.
Priscillian‘s ascetic beliefs, which originated in Galicia[4], spread over the Tierra de Campos ruled by the Arian Visigoths, and was opposed by him.
The Church of Gaul passed through three dogmatic crises. Its bishops seem to have been greatly preoccupied with Arianism; as a rule they clung to the teaching of the Council of Nicaea, in spite of a few temporary or partial defections. Athanasius, who had been exiled to Trier (336-38), exerted a powerful influence on the episcopate of Gaul; one of the great champions of orthodoxy in the West was Hilary of Poitiers, who also suffered exile for his constancy. Priscillianism had a greater hold on the masses of the faithful. It was above all a method, an ideal of Christian life, which appealed to all, even to women. It was condemned (380) at the Synod of Saragossa where the Bishops of Bordeaux and Agen were present; none the less it spread rapidly in Central Gaul, Eauze in particular being a stronghold. When in 385 the usurper Maximus put Priscillian and his friends to death, St. Martin was in doubt how to act, but repudiated with horror communion with the bishops who had condemned the unfortunates. Priscillianism, indeed, was more or less bound up with the cause of asceticism in general. Finally the bishops and monks of Gaul were long divided over Pelagianism. Proculus, Bishop of Marseille, had obliged Leporius, a disciple of Pelagius, to leave Gaul, but it was not long before Marseille and Lérins, led by Cassian, Vincent and Faustus, became hotbeds of a teaching opposed to St. Augustine’s and known as Semipelagianism. Prosper of Aquitaine wrote against it, and was obliged to take refuge at Rome. It was not until the beginning of the sixth century that the teaching of Augustine triumphed, when a monk of Lérins, Caesarius of Arles, an almost servile disciple of Augustine, caused it to be adopted by the Council of Orange (529).
The barbarians, however, were on the march. The great invasion of 407 made the Goths masters of all the country to the south of the Loire, with the exception of Bourges and Clermont, which did not fall into their hands until 475; Arles succumbed in 480. Then the Visigoth kingdom was organized, Arian in religion, and at first hostile to Catholicism.
Beginning with Augustine[5], many have seen a connection to Noahide Law
Audianism was a fourth-century Christian heresy, named after the leader of the sect, Audius (or Audaeus).
The circumcellions were fanatical bands of predatory peasants that flourished in North Africa in the 4th century.[1] They preferred to be known as agonistici (“fighters(for Christ)”).[1] At first they were concerned with remedying social grievances, but they became linked with the Donatist sect.[1]
The Donatists (named for the Berber Christian Donatus Magnus) were followers of a belief considered a schism by the broader churches of the Catholic tradition, and most particularly within the context of the religious milieu of the provinces of Roman North Africa in Late Antiquity. They lived in the Roman province of Africa and flourished in the fourth and fifth centuries.
In 375, Epiphanius records the settlement of Ebionites on Cyprus, but by the mid-5th century, Theodoret of Cyrrhus reported that they were no longer present in the region.[28]
The Euchites or Messalians were a sect condemned as heretical in a synod of 383CE.
However, the strictures against Marcionism predate the authority, claimed by the First Council of Nicaea in 325, to declare what is heretical against the Church.
Marcionism continued in the West for 300 years, although Marcionistic ideas persisted much longer.[3]The organization continued in the East for some centuries later, particularly outside the Byzantine Empire in areas which later would be dominated by Manichaeism. This is no accident: Mani is believed to have been a Mandaean, and Mandaeanism is related to Marcionism in several ways.

Into the late fourth century, the Bishop known as Ambrose of Milan had millennial leanings (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verse 108).
Chiliasm was, however, according to the interpretation of non-chiliasts, condemned as a heresy in the 4th century by the Church, which included the phrase whose Kingdom shall have no end in the Nicene Creed in order to rule out the idea of a Kingdom of God which would last for only 1000 literal years.[8] Despite some writers’ belief in millennialism, it was a decided minority view, as expressed in the nearly universal condemnation of the doctrine over a gradual period of time, beginning with Augustine of Hippo. It is vigorously disputed whether or not caesaropapism had a role in the virtual annihilation of millennialism from the 4th Century onwards.
Although orthodox Nicene Christianity prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, labeling it a heresy, the sect persisted in some isolated places into the 8th century. Some people have drawn parallels between Montanism and modern Pentecostalism (which some call Neo-Montanism). The most widely known Montanist was undoubtedly Tertullian, who was the foremost Latin church writer before he converted to Montanism.

A letter of Jerome to Marcella, written in 385, refutes the claims of Montanists that had been troubling her (letter 41) [1].

A group of “Tertullianists” continued to exist at Carthage. The anonymous author of Praedestinatus records that a preacher came to Rome in 388 where he made many converts and obtained the use of a church for his congregation on the grounds that the martyrs to whom it was dedicated had been Montanists.[2] He was obliged to flee after the victory of Theodosius I. Augustine records that the Tertullianist group dwindled to almost nothing in his own time, and finally was reconciled to the church and handed over their basilica.[3]

Pelagianism was opposed by Augustine of Hippo, who is known today as a Church Father of Catholicism. Augustine was converted to Christianity out of the Gnostic sect Manicheanism. When Pelagius taught that moral perfection was attainable in this life because of free will, Augustine counteracted this by saying that perfection was impossible because we are born sinners with a sinful flesh. The Pelagians charged Augustine with teaching Gnosticism by teaching original sin, because the Gnostics taught that the flesh was sinful, which was why they denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Augustine also taught that a person’s salvation comes solely through an irresistible free gift, the efficacious grace of God, and that no free choice was involved in salvation. The debate of Pelagius vs. Augustine was free will vs. original sin. Augustine was not successful in having Pelagius condemned by the Church. He therefore had the political powers severely persecute him.[citation needed] Years after Pelagius died, Pelagianism was condemned, aided by the fact that Pelagius could not defend himself against Augustine’s charges.
Disciples of Valentinus continued to be active into the fourth century CE, after the Roman Empire was declared to be Christian[2].
Apollinarism or Apollinarianism was a view proposed by Apollinaris of Laodicea (died 390) that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind.
It was declared to be a heresy in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople, since Christ was officially depicted as fully human and fully God.
The controversy over Arianism began to rise in the late 3rd century and extended over the greater part of the 4th century and involved most church members, simple believers, priests and monks as well as bishops, emperors and members of Rome’s imperial family. Yet, such a deep controversy within the Church could not have materialized in the 3rd and 4th centuries without some significant historical influences providing the basis for the Arian doctrines. Most orthodox or mainstream Christian historians define and minimize the Arian conflict as the exclusive construct of Arius and a handful of rogue bishops engaging in heresy. Of the roughly three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, only three bishops did not sign the Nicene Creed. However to minimize the extent of Arianism ignores the fact that extremely prominent Emperors such as Constantius II, the first Christian Emperor, and Valens were Arians, as well as prominent Gothic, Vandal and Lombard warlords both before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and that none of these groups were out of the mainstream of the Roman Empire in the 4th century.
In the contra epistulam fundamenti, Augustine of Hippo makes reference to the Manichaeans believing that Jesus was Docetic.
The Macedonians were a Christian sect of the 4th century AD, named after Bishop Macedonius I of Constantinople. They professed a belief similar[1][dubious discuss] to that of Arianism, but apparently denying the divinity of the Holy Spirit,[2] and regarding the substance of Jesus Christ as being the same in kind as that of God the Father. They are regarded to have taught that the Holy Spirit was a creation of the Son, and a servant of the Father and the Son. This is what prompted the addition of “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is equally worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets,” into the Nicene Creed at the second ecumenical council. [3]
Their teachings were formally condemned in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople. The Council responded to the theological challenge of the Macedonians by revising the Nicene Creed into present form used in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches and prohibited[citation needed] any further alteration of the Creed without the assent of an Ecumenical Council. The Macedonian heresy was subsequently suppressed by the emperor Theodosius I.
Eutychianism refers to a set of Christian theological doctrines derived from the ideas of Eutyches of Constantinople (c. 380456).
Nestorius (c. 386–c. 451) was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia in Antioch in Syria (modern Turkey) and later became Archbishop of Constantinople.

In Christology, Psilanthropism is the view that Jesus was merely human. The expression “merely human” can refer either to Jesus’ substance (nothing more than a man) or to his existence in time (no existence prior to his becoming a man), or both. The presumed etymology of “psilanthropism” stems from the Greek psilo (merely, only) and anthropos (man, human being).

Psilanthropism was rejected by the ecumenical councils, especially in the First Council of Nicaea, which was convened to deal directly with this.

Epiphanius (Haeres 62) about 375 AD notes that the adherents of Sabellius were still to be found in great numbers, both in Mesopotamia and at Rome.[4]